Lancione takes a look at rugged winger Brenden Morrow, who is turning the clock back in Pittsburgh.
Fantasy Forensics: Brendan Morrow
When the March 24th trade of Brendan Morrow beat the trade deadline rush, it nearly instantly opened up the opportunity for Morrow to experience a bit of a revitalization. This certainly has been the case three weeks later in his new Consol Energy centre surroundings. Morrow has eight points in his last four games with the Penguins, and he has stepped up his production in the absence of Sidney Crosby.
It was believed that moving to an offensive powerhouse like Pittsburgh would provide more opportunities for Brendan to link up with high level thinkers on the ice and production would be a natural bi-product. However, when assessing Morrow’s most frequent line combos, (as provided by Frozen Pools below) you’ll notice that he was actually more often placed with the top skilled players back in Dallas, despite the rate of production increase since coming to Pittsburgh. A change of scenery/fresh start seems to be the primary factor at play here.
Spending very regular time with both Jaromir Jagr and Jamie Benn on the top even strength line in Dallas you’d think would garner a higher rate of production than with the like of Brandon Sutter, Matt Cooke, and Jussi Jokinen.
However, after letting it percolate a little, its become evident its not the caliber of linemates that enabled Morrow to take his production to a higher level, but rather an increased offensive role.
Playing third wheel to Benn and Jagr’s dynamism offensively in Big D, Morrow was forced into more of a grind it out protector role on the top line, more often digging for loose pucks in dirty areas, and feeding it to the point. Of course after winning battles in the offensive zone, the defender who retrieved his passes more often than not got the puck back to number 68 or young stud Benn to finish the play. Thus would thus move Morrow to the role of third or fourth last person to touch the puck, which made getting on the score sheet a scarce occurrence.
Meanwhile, after the deal, being on a depth line in the Penguins roster has afforded Morrow the opportunity thus far to shift his role to the offensive catalyst on the line, with an opportunity to finish plays or teeing up the finishing shot, whereas the Matt Cookes or even Brandon Sutters of the world are now the ones battling in the corners to win pucks. A complete role reversal within the dynamics of his given line on the team.
The obvious and predictable production change moving to a winning climate was an overall increased plus-minus by moving to a team that scores far more often than it allows tallies. As is pretty clearly evidenced here in Frozen Pools’ Weekly +/- Tracker.
In short, the pundits appear to be right about this opportunity giving Morrow a chance to be more productive. However, based on my theories above, it's starting to become evident that the said increase is not due to the reasons that were expected. As he continues to grow into Bylsma’s system and get more comfortable with his new teammates and surroundings, we should continue to see more from Morrow offensively.
(Give Anthony Lancione a follow on Twitter @Anthisdaman)
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